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IFFI 2017: Manto more relevant now than ever, says Rasika Dugal


The actress, speaking on the sidelines of the festival, said there is a threat to freedom of expression in every aspect, not just cinema, today.

IANS

At a time when artistes in India are fighting for freedom of expression, actress Rasika Dugal says her upcoming film Manto, which traces the life of Urdu writer Sa'adat Hassan Manto, "unfortunately" resonates with the current wave of dissent and emotions.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali's historical drama Padmavati has been facing protests from some right-wing groups backed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party with some even issuing violent threats. Another row has erupted over the Malayalam film S Durga and the Marathi film Nude.

Dugal told IANS news agency on the sidelines of the Film Bazaar at the 48th edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI): "I think there is a threat for freedom of speech in every aspect, not just in cinema. Therefore, Manto is more relevant today than ever, unfortunately. I wish it wasn't like this.

"We are struggling with the same issue in a big way. Death of freedom of speech is one thing I am worried about and worried that it will affect cinema and other art forms."

Manto, who died in 1955 aged only 43, had penned an impressive body of work touching various genres. He churned out 22 collections of stories comprising a novel, essays, personal sketches and movie scripts. One of his literary gems was a story on Mirza Ghalib.

Manto's work also gained attention for stories around the ordeal of Partition as well as on sexuality.

Nandita Das is directing Manto, which features Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the title role. Dugal will be seen as Safia, Manto's wife.

Talking about Manto, Dugal said: "It is a very special film for me. This project has given me a lot of recognition by just being associated with it because of the kind of reputation that Nandita comes with and also Nawaz.

"Manto has been the writer who has influenced me a lot since my college days. I am so happy to be associated with the project and to be able to delve into his writing more and be able to get into his life more."

Dugal said she had fun working with Das and Siddiqui. "I thought they are very serious... that is the kind of impression people have about them," she said. "But they are a lot of fun and quite crazy. We shared a common sense of humour... we had a lot of fun. It was a relief from the seriousness of the script."

Apart from Manto, the actress has projects like Hamid and Reincarnation in her kitty.

Manto is expected to be in theatres by the middle of next year. Dugal hopes Manto gets the "release it deserves".

On the Film Bazaar, organized by the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), she said: "It is one of a kind. It is very encouraging to see somebody taking an initiative seriously and putting everything into it so that good projects get the kind of support they should... I hope it continues."

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